Fresh development supports a South Nevada renaissance

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New businesses, restaurants and housing are springing up in the urban renewal area that encompasses the South Nevada Avenue and South Tejon Street area — and a lot more is expected to happen in the next two years, including a new hotel.

Three developers — Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli, Walt Harder and Danny Mientka — are heading various projects on the west side of South Nevada. All of the work is expected to be completed by 2020, which would transform the Ivywild neighborhood that has Cheyenne Creek running through it.

“It will look totally different than it does now,” Sam Guadagnoli said. “There will be a beautiful bike trail, creekside dining, creekside shopping and creekside living. It’ll be all lit up. It’ll be a great neighborhood, and it’s all because urban renewal made it possible.”

The Urban Renewal Authority approved 96 acres — about half of it west of South Nevada and half of it on the east side of the street — for an urban renewal plan in November 2015. No developer has yet done anything east of Nevada.

“Sam has been accumulating land down here for about 14 years,” said Ray O’Sullivan, the development manager for the Guadagnolis’ Ivywild Development company. “He has about 44 parcels, and we tore down about that many structures, most of them a total nuisance if you ask the fire department. [The Guadagnolis] front-loaded the expenses to clean up those immediate problems and there have been fewer problems with people getting into places since then.”

Recent openings

The Guadagnolis opened the Prime 25 steakhouse on South Tejon about a year ago while Mientka has a tenant, Blush, in his newly restored building a block away.

Harder owns the property on South Nevada where Natural Grocers relocated and Zoës Kitchen recently opened next door. He said the Chick-fil-A under construction should be operational in March, and that a three-way traffic signal in front of the restaurants should be installed by the Colorado Department of Transportation in about 60 days. Another nationally recognized fast casual restaurant is expected to soon fill the space between Zoës Kitchen and Chick-fil-A.

Harder also plans a 40-unit apartment building behind Natural Grocers, on the east side of Cheyenne Creek, to be done in two years.

“I think it’s a great beginning. We’re tremendously excited about how that area is being transformed,” Harder said. “In the next five years, that area will be unrecognizable. You’ll probably see 90 percent of it redone.”

Harder grew up in the Springs but moved to Salida, where he also does business.

“When I moved back here from Salida two years ago, I was surprised that [the South Nevada] area was still so depressed because it leads to the Broadmoor [neighborhood],” Harder said. “I would’ve thought [billionaire Broadmoor owner] Philip Anschutz would’ve bought all that up and cleaned it up. I’m grateful he left the opportunity for me.”

New neighbors

Drive down South Nevada Avenue another mile and a half, and more renovation is occurring. FirstBank is building a new branch at the shopping center on East Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard, and VASA Fitness is expanding and remodeling the old Albertson’s grocery building. The gym, which has a trailer outside and representatives signing up members, should open in March. The bank has targeted March 7 as an opening date.

It will be the sixth Colorado location for Utah-based VASA Fitness, said operations manager Carli Lewis, and the fourth to open in about four months.

There is a 24 Hour Fitness about a mile from VASA, so how was the location chosen?

“When [VASA officials] were scoping it out, they noticed there was a lot going on in the Northside of town, and not as much on the Southside,” Lewis said. “We’ve got a lot of people coming in and saying, ‘We need this kind of facility on this side of town.’ We saw a need for this type of facility and culture and all the amenities that we offer: racquetball courts, basketball court, massage beds, pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi. Hopefully we can also get a north location in Colorado Springs, if the south one does well.”

FirstBank public relations spokesperson Chandra Brin said VASA’s opening “is a positive thing, but it wasn’t a certainty” when the bank decided to relocate a branch across the parking lot. FirstBank has long had a smaller branch two miles away at the Broadmoor Bluffs shopping center, but it will close when the new one opens.

FirstBank has seven locations in the Springs and one in Falcon, with 98 branches statewide.

“We liked the visibility and access of the site,” Brin said in an email. “This location will also enable us to provide customers added convenience and offerings such as a drive-up, safe deposit boxes … which are things that aren’t currently available at our Broadmoor Bluffs location.”

More to come

The Guadagnolis broke ground last week a few doors south of Natural Grocers, with construction to start next month on a retail project that Sam said would include restaurants Tokyo Joe’s and Smashburger, as well as several more tenants, with those opening in about a year.

The Guadagnolis are also building Canyon Creek Townhomes, a total of 19 units, on Cheyenne Boulevard. They have 30 more townhomes and about 100 apartments planned in the South Tejon area, with some construction to begin this summer.

The Guadagnolis have tentatively chosen Homewood Suites by Hilton as the brand for their hotel, located next to Prime 25 steakhouse and set back along Cheyenne Creek, across from Harder’s apartment building. The hotel will be connected to an Italian restaurant.

In an email sent this month to update the Guadagnolis’ minority partners, the first item was about building out the existing structure at 1515 S. Tejon, where a taco/beach-themed restaurant is planned to open by summer, with Ivywild Development offices going on the top floor by 2019, and additional office space also for rent.

The Guadagnolis have tentatively planned 49 apartments on Metzler Place, adjacent to Mientka’s 11 acres, where Mientka plans a retail shopping center that would include 20-25 tenants along South Nevada, bordered on the north by Ramona Avenue and the south by West Cheyenne Road.

“We’re targeting 65 percent restaurants, high-quality concept restaurants new to Colorado Springs,” Mientka said. “It’ll be fast casual, not fine dining.”

Mientka said “land conversion activities” would start in the summer with “stores opening in 2020.”

“We’ve been acquiring properties the last four years,” he said. “We just finished developing 1505 S. Tejon and Brandi Martinez, who operates Blush, is our new tenant. It’s a dry bar — think proms or wedding parties — where you can get your hair done and have alcohol, maybe champagne. It was originally a grocery store in the area and we had the opportunity to bring the building back to its historic look.”

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